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Lockdown Blues...

From the wonderful cartoon collection of moonshadow68 - don't miss the rest!

The cause of our awful pandemic is also a wonder of Nature (who is neither malignant nor benign, but just is).

Click the image for a seriously deep read. Unlike many scientific articles, however, this one uses humour and some great analogies to help us understand more about what's going on.

The “body” of COVID-19, the article says, is basically a genome enveloped in glycoproteins (proteins with a sugar coating), with a smear of fat and bearing the crown of spikes that inspired the name “coronavirus.”

This genome is a single strand of RNA, which tricks the infected cell into treating it as its own messenger RNA.

When a human cell receives it, it first unpacks the protein "toolkit" that the virus needs to replicate. As the article says: “Making this toolkit is a little like downloading an installer for new software.”

The rest of the genome contains “structural” proteins which the “toolkit” uses in its work. One of these proteins produces a shell of subunits that, among other things, acts as a cloaking device to hide the viruses from our immune system.

There is much more in this article, a flavour of which comes from this section heading:

“A Fish, A Bat, and A Human Walk Into a Seafood Market …”

A slow read, but an entertaining and instructive one - highly recommended.


From the wonderful cartoon collection of moonshadow68 - don't miss the rest!

Signs of the Times

It's strange that so many of the people we value the most at the moment are the least well paid.

By "we", I mean practically everyone in the UK (and a good part of the rest of the world, except the USA).

In the USA "we" seems to exclude Trump, the GOP and (with honorable exceptions) the very rich.

With COVID-19 acting as Nature's stupidity filter for the planet, it's probable that more of Trump's supporters are now feeling the same way too.

COVID-19 will change the world for the better in many ways, I believe. It is already changing our working habits, greatly reducing the CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere this year, and making us re-think what we really value in life.

Anyhow, we shall see!

I hope you are safe and well, wherever you are. If you want to remind yourself that there are still good things in life, see my personal selection here.

Lockdown Britain - Are We Downhearted? (updated 17th April 2020)

In normal times we Brits are notoriously a nation of grumblers and nay-sayers.

In times of adversity, like the dreadful virus that the whole world is suffering from right now, we seem transformed.

We look out for each other, we look on the bright side of what is far from bright, and we really appreciate everyone working to help and support others, especially (but not only) those on the front line of our National Health Service.

As an example of great British humour in adversity, it would be hard to beat the Marsh Family's viral-video adaptation of Les Misérables.

The original video is no longer available, it seems, but if you click the above image you can play a version with only a little bit clipped off the front (which included the family having a hilarious argument before settling down to singing).

I guarantee that you will fall off your chair laughing, and maybe wipe your eyes afterwards.

Then there's this:

It's an established event now that at 8PM every Thursday, the entire country unites around #ClapForOurCarers - click the image above to see this phenomenon in action.

Originally a one-off gesture of appreciation for our frontline NHS staff, it has grown each week into a national "thank you" to everyone who supports other people, especially those who are sick or in isolation. We lean out of our windows or balconies or wherever we can, and give them all a well-deserved round of applause.

We are also thanking people using their home 3D printers to create masks and face shields, the people who worked like Trojans to construct the two massive Nightingale Hospitals in a few days (bigger than Heathrow Terminal 5) and many, many more.

Many young people (among others) have volunteered in their off-duty time to do a whole variety of things, from taking food to the isolated elderly to helping out on sanitation vehicles to assisting nurses with anything that the nurse doesn't have to do herself or himself.

When this is over, their stories should be enshrined in some kind of memorial.

And then, there is the astonishing story (still ongoing) of one of Britain's oldest inhabitants, the veteran Captain Tom, who decided to try to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday at the end of April.

As I write, the total has passed £4,000,000 with donations from around the world. Tom has passed his target and is still working on improving it.

He has truly inspired the nation. If you click on one thing today, click his image to the left for the most uplifting story you will have heard in a long time.

When we win the war against COVID-19, and we will, I hope that BBC Breakfast (whose excellent featuring of this story added more than £1m of contributions in a few hours) receives some kind of medal also, for their so-positive contribution each day to national morale and information.

Update 17th April: Tom reached his 100th lap yesterday, and was treated to an honour guard by members of the regiment that is a descendant of the one in which he fought.

He also had a special call from our William and Kate, surely the nicest Royals on the planet. Oh yes, and a day after I first posted this, the total raised is somewhere in excess of £18,000,000!

As before, click on the image below if you would like to see BBC Breakfast's coverage of this wonderful event.

And then, there's the great British sense of humour, never better than in a time of crisis.

And if you're in need of a pick-me-up, there's lots more COVID humour here.

Britain isn't alone, of course (and no better place to get a good world view of what's happening than watching Al Jazeera, as we recently discovered).

Our neighbours in Europe have suffered greatly in different ways, and for different reasons. Italy, for example, is a country of gregarious and affectionate people, and dealing with COVID-19 has been particularly painful for them.

If we look across the Atlantic to our friends there, we can only count our blessings that our government, for all its faults, is doing its damndest to help people rather than corporations, and is basing all it does stricly on science.

From the latest daily government briefing, which is so different from the Trump version that it makes the eyes water:

If the madman in the US White House, who has spread and is still spreading lethal disinformation about COVID-19, encourages or compels a premature return to work, and the people who support others and save lives are overwhelmed, then America is lost.

We can only pray for sanity prevailing and his removal from the office that he has disgraced.

The good news is that we now have a succinct way to sum up all the wonderful people fighting COVID-19, saving lives, and helping others:

They are absolutely everything that Trump is not.

There can be no higher praise.